We’re still getting those summer squash, so we keep looking for new ways to use them. All part of our zucchini files, which we’d like to have bulging with great recipes, as summer squash is one of those vegetables that keeps on giving and giving. And giving. It seems as though that’s especially true here in the southwest, as the summer is rather long, meaning we might have six or more months of summer squash, and we’d be loath to waste them.
So, as part of those files, we present this nice Zucchini and Rice Phyllo Pie. Easy to put together, and pretty tasty if you make it according to the original recipe; however, we’re giving a few ideas that will move this dish from pretty tasty to outstanding. Don’t worry, none of the changes from the version in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg are too significant. Think of them as little tweaks that you can use or not. After all, you’re scratchin’, so you decide.
Obviously, any sort of summer squash will work well here: zucchini, yellow, or Mexican gray; if it has a soft skin, you can use it. You don’t really need olive oil in this; any neutral flavored vegetable oil will do, canola, corn, safflower, etc. We strongly recommend using feta cheese. The original recipe called for a hard goat cheese or a mature cheddar; we actually had both in the house and did a blend. Mistake. You could barely taste the cheddar, and the goat was a bit too strong in spots. Go with feta, but just make sure to buy a block and crumble it yourself. Crumbled feta loses flavor rapidly. Eggs, of course, are from those happy, free-ranging hens. Now, the original recipe didn’t call for lemon zest, and we didn’t use it, but tasting this pie, that was the one thing it really cried out for. We’ll be using it next time, so omit at your peril. Finally, phyllo dough. If you’re up for it, you can make your own; we did, but we know that’s not for everyone, so use phyllo from the store if you want. We won’t think any the less of you. Regardless of the kind of phyllo you use, remember to keep the unused sheets covered so they don’t dry out.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Beat egg. In a small bowl, beat together the egg and the oil. No other reason for this than to break up the egg yolks and whites.
Make filling. In a medium bowl, combine the grated squash (do not drain, you’ll need the liquid to cook the rice), rice, onion, cheese, dill, chervil, egg and oil, and lemon zest, if using. Add salt and pepper to taste. For this recipe, we recommend about 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper, but you be the judge. Set aside the filling.
Layer phyllo. Lightly butter an 8×8 inch baking pan and place a single sheet of phyllo on the bottom, allowing the ends to come up and over the edges of the pan. Brush the sheet with melted butter, then lay down a second sheet. Continue layering phyllo in this manner until you’ve used about half of the sheets.
Fill. Spread the filling over the phyllo in the pan, making an even layer about an inch thick. Fold the phyllo that was overhanging the edges up and over the filling, brushing with butter as needed. Don’t worry if some has dried out and crumbles a bit, as we’ll be covering it up in a minute.
Layer phyllo. Place a sheet of phyllo on top of the filling and tuck it down along the edges to help seal in the filling. Brush with melted butter, and then add another layer of phyllo. Continue until you use up the remaining phyllo. Finally, brush the top layer with melted butter, too.
Bake. Place the pie in the oven and bake until the phyllo puffs and is golden brown and crisp, 40 to 50 minutes.
What a great way to use zucchini. If you pay attention while you eat, you can tell that this is made with summer squash, but it’s taken on so much flavor from the dill that it’s barely noticeable. Plus, it’s so easy to make. Grate the squash, grate the onion (we did, rather than chop), grate the cheese, add the remaining ingredients for the filling and stir. Layer phyllo, fill, layer, and bake. You can have this in the oven in under 20 minutes, easy, then just wait until it’s done. Any leftovers warm nicely in the oven (we do not recommend using a microwave), and the phyllo stays crisp. We give the original recipe four stars, but we’re sure that by including lemon zest and using feta cheese, this is a five-star main.